Hyperion Records

String Quartet in C minor, Op 51 No 1
composer
preliminary version completed by December 1865; finalized and published by Simrock in 1873; dedicated to THeodor Billroth

Recordings
'Brahms: String Quartets Op 51' (CDA66651)
Brahms: String Quartets Op 51
MP3 £4.00FLAC £4.00ALAC £4.00Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66651  Archive Service; also available on CDS44331/42   Download currently discounted
'Brahms: String Quartets Opp 67 & 51/1' (CDA67552)
Brahms: String Quartets Opp 67 & 51/1
'Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music' (CDS44331/42)
Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £40.00 CDS44331/42  12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Brahms: String Quartets & Piano Quintet' (CDD22018)
Brahms: String Quartets & Piano Quintet
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99 CDD22018  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Deleted  
Details
Movement 1: Allegro
Track 5 on CDA67552 [10'51]
Track 1 on CDA66651 [11'08] Archive Service; also available on CDS44331/42
Track 1 on CDS44331/42 CD3 [11'08] 12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 1 on CDD22018 CD1 [11'08] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Deleted
Movement 2: Romanze: Poco adagio
Track 6 on CDA67552 [6'21]
Track 2 on CDA66651 [7'17] Archive Service; also available on CDS44331/42
Track 2 on CDS44331/42 CD3 [7'17] 12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 2 on CDD22018 CD1 [7'17] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Deleted
Movement 3: Allegretto molto moderato e comodo – Un poco piů animato
Track 7 on CDA67552 [8'09]
Track 3 on CDA66651 [8'50] Archive Service; also available on CDS44331/42
Track 3 on CDS44331/42 CD3 [8'50] 12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 3 on CDD22018 CD1 [8'50] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Deleted
Movement 4: Allegro
Track 8 on CDA67552 [5'41]
Track 4 on CDA66651 [6'05] Archive Service; also available on CDS44331/42
Track 4 on CDS44331/42 CD3 [6'05] 12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 4 on CDD22018 CD1 [6'05] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Deleted

String Quartet in C minor, Op 51 No 1
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None of Brahms’s large-scale works is more organically unified than the C minor Quartet Op 51 No 1. Not only does each idea grow with unerring logic out of the last, in a process of continual development, but the main subject of each movement clearly arises out of the same germ. The dramatic motif hurled forth by all four players at the start of the finale appears to set out in the key—F minor—of the preceding movement, while the rise and fall of its melodic shape echoes the opening movement’s main theme. Moreover, the stepwise progression of the finale’s initial notes recalls the gentle horn-call with which the three lower instruments preface the first violin’s theme at the start of the slow movement.

For all their musical richness, it is possible to feel that the orchestrally inclined outer movements are less successful in terms of quartet writing than the two middle movements, both of which are perfect and intimate miniatures. From a harmonic point of view, however, the first movement shows Brahms’s style at its boldest. The tense opening theme, with its pulsating accompaniment on viola and cello, is followed immediately by a more lyrical idea that modulates remarkably widely for so early in the piece. (This was a passage much admired by Schoenberg, who cited it in an essay entitled ‘Brahms the Progressive’.) No less striking is the manner in which Brahms treats the start of the recapitulation, much later in the movement, allowing the main theme to enter before the home key has been re-established. The seamless join is one that effectively prolongs the tension of the preceding development section.

The horn-call that inaugurates the slow movement is woven into the accompaniment of the warmly expressive main theme itself. The theme is handed over from violin to cello for a counterstatement, as though it were to form the basis of a set of variations; but there is no such quasi-repeat for the melody’s second half, which instead gives way to the halting phrases of a more pleading middle section. When the original melody returns it does so in an elaborately ornamented form, as if to confirm the variation background of the movement’s beginning.

If the ‘panting’ phrases that set the F minor third movement in motion offer a distant memory of the finale from Beethoven’s quartet in the same key Op 95, its second theme—a mellifluous, ‘swaying’ duet for viola and first violin—is as thoroughly Brahmsian as could be imagined. The trio section in the major has its theme accompanied by a curious ‘croaking’ sound from the second violin. The effect is produced by rapidly alternating the same pitch between adjacent ‘open’ and ‘stopped’ strings—an idea Brahms will have learned not from Beethoven, but from Haydn, whose quartets he deeply admired. Haydn’s most famous example of this bariolage technique, as it is called, occurs in the finale of his D major Quartet Op 50 No 6, where its use has lent the work as a whole the nickname of the ‘Frog’.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2008

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67552 track 8
Allegro
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-08-55208
Duration
5'41
Recording date
26 May 2008
Recording venue
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Brahms: String Quartets Opp 67 & 51/1 (CDA67552)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: November 2008
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